Microsoft's multimedia suite for music, video and photos
- Intuitive interface
- Very easy to use: drag and drop anything
- Manage all your media files in one place
- Built-in tools for ripping audio CDs, burning discs and syncing with external devices
- Availability of online stores depends on your country
- No support for podcasts
Windows Media Player 12 is not available for download as a standalone application. The only way to try it out is by downloading Windows 7.
It's not that different from version 11 – except for some slight changes in design – but if, like me, you haven't used Windows Media Player for a while, you'll be surprised to find a full multimedia suite with which you can not only listen to your favorite bands, but also view pictures, watch videos, rip and burn CDs, sync with mobile devices and even buy music online.
Windows Media Player 12 maintains the same design of the previous version, featuring only small changes in color (now it's clearer and brighter) and toolbar layout. Windows Media Player now makes a clear difference between the Library mode – which shows the Library contents and tools - and the Now Playing mode, where you can see the currently active song, video or playlist, along with visualization effects.
Menus in Windows Media Player 12 have been reduced to the minimum, meaning that some commands are hidden and you'll have to hit the Alt key to show them. You can use the left pane to browse the different categories in your media library (music, video, pictures and playlists) and the center area displays whatever item is currently selected or playing. On the right side, three buttons placed in the upper area (Play, Burn, Sync) enable you to create lists for playing, burning and syncing respectively.
The Media Guide in Windows Media Player 12 is Microsoft's equivalent to the Apple Store. This feature leads you to a variety of online store to buy music, but bear in mind that the number of available stores depends on your country. The Media Guide button also gives you access to dozens of online radio stations. One thing that Windows Media Player 12 is still missing though, is support for podcasts.
If there's one outstanding characteristic in Windows Media Player 12, however, it's ease of use. Almost anything can be done by dragging and dropping elements around the interface. Menus are nicely integrated into the interface's design and give you immediate access to the Windows Media Player's main functions. You can preview songs by simply hovering your mouse on them, and make the program automatically download any missing codes that might prevent you from playing certain video files. Generally speaking, everything in Windows Media Player 12 is simply more accessible, and easier to do.
Windows Media Player 12 brings small yet handy improvements which have turned it into a powerful multimedia center for music, video and photos.